Wednesday, January 5, 2011

5B Ski Club is members only

Affordable ski tuning enlivens ski culture


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

5B Ski Club co-founder Caleb Baukol is an experienced skier tuner who does ski tunes at the club for $2O. Two tuning benches for members to do their own skis can be seen in the background. Photo by David N. Seelig

Two longtime local skiers have launched the 5B Ski Club in Ketchum, where members can chat about current conditions while they tune their boards and meet up to ski Baldy or backcountry powder.

The club's originators, Caleb Baukol and Adam Majors, say the idea of a ski-tuning club is more than just having 24-hour access to taking care of skis—it's also taking care of ski culture in the Wood River Valley. Majors, 37, and Baukol, 41, have been tuning skis since their teens. Between the two, they have worked at Sturtevants, Sun Summit, Formula Sports, Ski Tek and Pete Lane's.

"My first paying job was tuning skis," Majors said.

The club is located off Main Street in the Gateway Building just south of River Street. Its official opening was Dec. 15.

The concept is based on a bar membership situation that Baukol learned about in Montana where a bar owner was able to bypass a liquor license because he offered memberships for people to bring their own alcohol to keep in a locker whenever they wanted it.

The members of the 5B Ski Club have a keyless entry and can use the facility 24 hours a day. Most everything at the club was donated and the supplies come from Sun Valley Ski Tools in Boise. In addition, supplies and tools are at the club and can be purchased on an as-needed basis. Ski tuning is available for Nordic, alpine and snowboarders.

The club offers 30 lockers, 10 tuning benches, 30 boot dryers and a walk-in hot box. A hot box is a heated room for skis where skiers can leave their skis to "soak" overnight. Nordic skiers especially enjoy the hot box because wax is so specific for performance. The lockers are for rent for the season. A season membership is $100 or $30 a month and a season family membership is $150. Locker rentals are additional $100 for the season or $30 a month.

"The club perpetuates the ski culture," Baukol said.

Baukol and Majors said the lack of such a culture was their main motivation for starting the 5B Ski Club.

On Tuesday, ski patrol member Eric Demment was waxing his Nordic skis and others were tuning skis preparing for fresh powder, which was starting to accumulate outside, while they listened to Majors and Baukol talk about their love of Baldy and keeping the ski culture of the Wood River Valley alive.

Majors said 5B Ski Club is not competing with existing tune shops; rather, they want to go after people who tune their skis in their garage.

"It's for people who live here," Majors said.

Current members are ski patrol, ski instructors and skiers who ski Baldy every day, Baukol said.

"These guys are on skis for the Sun Valley Co.," he said. "They need a tuning spot."

Both members of the club and nonmembers can have their skis tuned if they don't have the knowledge or inclination to do it themselves. Tuning is by appointment only and costs $20.

Baukol said that for skiers and boarders who don't have the money for a pricey tune, this allows him to take care of them.

"I enjoy tuning my friends' skis," he said. "At other shops, no one knows who's tuning skis. Here you know."

Majors said the personal tune is not mass-produced. Everyone has a card with notes about their tuning.

"It's our tune," Majors said. "We make it personal."

Majors said Sun Valley Heli Ski bought a corporate pass.

"It's priceless to have these guys come in and tell everyone what's good skiing out there," he said.

The club also has tuning clinics, a kegerator, refrigerator and a consignment area to sell gear. In addition, Baukol's 5B Ski Factory skis are available to demo or buy.

"We're still pressing skis in our undisclosed location," he said.

The club also has core ski industry people as members who have donated to making the shop operable. People have given vices, tools, art, posters and ski memorabilia.

"We've got the highest caliber of members with heli-ski guys, ski patrol and the mountain's best skiers," Baukol said. "All of our heroes are our members."

Sun Valley has also been the home for The Ski by Bobbie Burns, Ed Scott of Scott USA and Chuck Ferries with Head skis.

"These are roots people," Baukol said. "The history of Sun Valley validates us. Zach and Reggie Crist and Will Burks donated and they all come to hang out. No ski shop in the valley has a place to hang out. Everyone is comfortable."

Baukol said women are members as well and there are women's clinics.

"We have almost 30 members," Baukol said.

Baukol said he hopes the club can host races including an Up Down Get Down Race, which is a race climbing up and skiing down Baldy. He said the club would like to bring back the Harriman Cup and do a race on Durrance Mountain north of Ketchum.

Baukol said he's not certain if the club will stay in its current location. He's looking into other sites, and said there's a possibility of opening a bike shop, too. With a bike club for the summer, the operation would be year-round and may also include kayak fittings with Majors.

"We may end up with a place with a pool," Majors said. "We're visionaries."

For details, e-mail 5Bskiclub@gmail.com.

Sabina Dana Plasse: splasse@mtexpress.com




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